Why does forest governance matter?


What is forest governance?

Forest governance encompasses decision-making processes and institutions at local, national, regional and global levels, such as:

  • Who decides what about forests
  • How they make decisions
  • How they implement and enforce policies, laws and rules
  • How they are held accountable

Forest governance matters because forests generate important state revenue. Forest governance is also important to local communities because it directly affects their livelihoods, and to regional and international communities because of the role of forests in carbon and water cycles.

Good forest governance

Good governance underpins legality in a country's forest sector. It includes the following characteristics, which support and reinforce each other.

Coordination. Government departments communicate and coordinate to share information, inform each other and thus enhance overall enforcement of laws that apply to the sector.

Accountability. People take responsibility. Institutional responsibility is clear and articulated. Systems are overseen by independent checks. Governments address the concerns of civil society and people with grievances have access to redress and remedy.

Capacity. Stakeholders have the time, money, skills and knowledge they need to make and implement decisions. Systems that contribute to a well-managed forest sector are in place.

Clarity. The legislative landscape and institutional roles and responsibilities are clear to all stakeholders.

Credibility. Systems have broad stakeholder support and are open to independent monitoring and reporting.

Transparency. Governments and companies make information accessible to the public, and processes and decision making are open and inclusive.

Participation. Stakeholder representatives are able to take part in decision-making processes.

Law enforcement. Violations are addressed transparently.

Fairness. Policies and laws treat stakeholders equitably and include measures to mitigate negative impacts on poor people. Respect for the law is not a disadvantage.

Free, alert civil society. Citizens and the media are informed, aware and free to question governments and companies without fear of reprisals.

Weak forest governance

In most timber-exporting countries, weak forest governance is a key factor in the scale and extent of illegal logging. Decisions about the use and/or ownership of forests are often not transparent. Corruption is common. Forest stakeholders cannot always participate in decisions about the forest sector.

Weak governance in a country's forest sector can:

  • Unfairly benefit select or powerful groups
  • Harm weak or marginalised groups
  • Deplete natural resources by failing to manage them for the long term
  • Allow illegality and corruption to persist
  • Impede national efforts to manage forests for sustainable development
  • Lead to conflict over forest resources

How FLEGT and VPAs improve governance

The EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan sees Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) as tools to improve forest governance. Among other gains, VPAs agreed to date have:

  • Proved the most participatory decision-making processes ever to have taken place in partner-countries' forest sectors
  • Included major transparency commitments
  • Provided the much-needed legal and institutional clarity that underpins legality, law enforcement and accountability
  • Strengthened the capacity of national governments and stakeholders to deliberate on and develop shared solutions to illegal logging